On Home Turf, Mamata Banerjee Continues to Challenge BJP-Ruled Centre

West Bengal has resisted the central government's decision to withdraw troops from Darjeeling and has declined to be a part of Modi's project on promoting cultural diversity.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Credit: PTI

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: After previously ignoring the Centre’s guidelines on Independence Day celebrations, the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government has now declined to participate in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’ programme – aimed at promoting cultural integrity in the country.

The scheme – which has been proposed by Modi – is among the central programmes on the Centre’s agenda nowadays, according to a DNA report.

The idea behind the programme is to celebrate cultural diversity and promote interactions between people from different states. The Ministry of Human Resource Development – under instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office – has thus been pairing different states and Union territories to encourage the hosting of literary festivals and events in each other’s language to promote learning from each other’s culture.

“It is envisaged through this exchange that the knowledge of the language, culture, traditions and practices of different states will lead to an enhanced understanding and bonding between one another, thereby strengthening the unity and integrity of India,” an official said.

According to The Telegraph, while the ministry has formed 13 pairs and three trios of states and Union territories, West Bengal has refused to be paired.

A ministry official said that correspondence with different states was initiated in November 2016 and West Bengal was the sole state that was yet to respond despite repeated letters seeking its participation.

The ministry had recently asked all paired states – some of which have already started work on the events – to prepare a calendar of activities for the entire year. The information is to be shared with the Centre by the end of the month.

According to DNA, the state also failed to respond to a book brought forth by the National Council for Educational and Research and Training (NCERT) which contains information on various states.

The Wire had earlier reported on the West Bengal government instructing its schools to pay no heed to the BJP-led central government’s instructions on celebrating Independence Day as well as on building “mass fervour” around the prime minister’s ‘New India Mission.’

West Bengal opting out of the ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’ initiative comes amid the state’s disagreement with the Union home ministry’s decision to withdraw troops from Darjeeling. According to Indian Express, after Banerjee objected to the ministry ordering the withdrawal of ten of the 15 Central Armed Police Forces (CRPF) companies from the area, the Centre decided to pull out only seven.

According to a Trinamool Congress source, Banerjee contacted Union home minister Rajnath Singh to demand reasons for the decision since the situation in Darjeeling is “still very volatile.”

“In a situation like this, how can the Centre take a decision to withdraw ten company forces from the hills?” Banerjee told Indian Express.

Following discussions, it was decided that eight companies would remain in Darjeeling, including five CRPF companies and three Sashastra Seema Bal companies.

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